Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Americas Cup Race 13 (1st Edition)

I want to take issue with what has been widely reported on the web about the Americas Cup racing on Friday afternoon last week. That was when Race 13 was run, abandoned then run for a second time.

A syndicated report written by Scott Neuman has appeared on thousands of websites and tells an entirely inaccurate story. It says:-

"They were helped along somewhat by the vagaries of the wind off San Francisco — it's been alternately too light or too strong. On Friday in a light-air race, New Zealand crossed the line ahead of USA, but it took them just over 40 minutes, which the race rules said was too long. So the result was thrown out and the defenders lived to sail again."

Either the author was not watching the race himself and published incorrect information supplied by someone else or he didn't understand what he was watching.

I might rile up people who are rooting for Emirates Team NZ but I like to read the truth, whichever side I am supporting. It behoves journalists to publish the truth, not what they want or someone else wants them to say, for whatever reason. Inaccuracies in journalistic reporting become truth in the future unless they are corrected at the time or soon after. This is especially true in the Internet era because what goes onto the Internet will stay on the Internet until there is no longer an Internet (forever? until the end of the world? Who knows?)

In this case the report says that NZ won the race and then the result was thrown out because the race took too long. Absolute nonsense.

Emirates NZ was well ahead at the time that the race was abandoned but they were nowhere near to the finish line. I can't be sure of their exact position when time ran out but I think that they were into the green circle and about to round the last mark when the abandon call came from the race officer. They still had the last leg to sail. There was no result, so how can the result have been thrown out?

You may say that this is pure semantics and it makes no difference. But it does, it makes a very big difference. Emirates Team NZ only needed to win one more race to take the cup back to New Zealand and that was the race that they needed. The report says that they won that race then it was taken away due to the time limit. That is equivalent to saying that they won the cup then it was taken away from them. If the time limit had been 45 minutes instead of 40 minutes then they would have won the race and the cup, no dispute. The fact is that they didn't finish or win that race and didn't win the cup on that day.

Most yacht races have time limits, as do most other sporting events in the world. The 40 minute time limit is one of the many rules of the event. The race committee cannot increase or decrease this limit at whim. You can be sure that the crews of both boats knew long before they even reached the weather mark that there was a good chance that the race would be abandoned for exceeding the allotted 40 minutes, unless the wind increased considerably. The commentators were already talking about it half-way up leg 3 and I am sure that the crews of both boats were watching their very accurate timepieces all the way through. All racing sailors know that in very light breezes there is a chance of missing the time limit so we keep it in mind, we watch the clock and estimate or calculate the speed needed due to the time and distance to go to the finish. We didn't see any looks of astonishment among the crew when the race was abandoned, they knew that they would not finish in time to get a result.

The fact is that the non-completion of that race has forever changed the Americas Cup history from what would have been if the race had been completed. AC34 has dramatically changed from what was a hiding being handed out to Oracle Team USA by Emirates Team New Zealand to what is now an extremely thrilling spectacle, with one of the biggest comebacks ever seen in any sport in the world. With 5 straight wins in races 13 to 17 instead of the final loss that appeared inevitable for race 13, we now have some seriously competitive racing taking place.

By this evening Emirates Team New Zealand may have won that last race that they need and the cup may be in the hands of the New Zealanders. On the other hand, Oracle Team USA may have defied the odds even further and taken it to 6 wins in a row. Whichever way it goes, it has been thrilling to watch and I will watch for as long as it keeps going until one or the other does win that elusive 9th race.

 PS. Whatever time limit is applied to a race, there may be times that it is exceeded. For Race 13 the 40 minutes was too short and 45 minutes would have given a result. But 45 minutes could easily have also been too short, so where does one place a limit? The 40 minute limit was written into the rules and all crews knew that it was there.They are not bitching about it, they are getting on with the job at hand, which is to win "The Cup".